The ABCs of LGBTQIA+
Happy Pride Month! The LGBTQIA+ community is one that prides itself on words and language, slang and nicknames. It is best described as a culture with varying ideologies and opinions, all overlaying principles and messages of equality and acceptance. LGBTQIA+ is an inclusive acronym used as a spectrum to help identify both genders and sexualities that they feel best describe how they feel about themselves and in what ways they seek to connect with others.
The first couple of letters of the LGBTQIA+ acronym are the most well-known.
L is for Lesbian
A woman whose attraction (physical, romantic or emotional) is to other women
This can also apply to people who identify as non-binary or gender nonconforming.
G is for Gay
This is often a broader term for any gender whose attraction (physical, romantic or emotional) is to people of the same identifying gender.
B is for Bisexual
Someone who identifies as bisexual can form attractions in all the ways mentioned above to people of more than one gender.
T is for Transgender
A person who identifies as transgender experiences a gender expression or identity that is different from the one they were assigned at birth. While some people might seek out hormones or surgeries to help them feel more like themselves and their gender identity, others do not take those routes. It is important to keep in mind that transgender identity is not dependent on physical appearance.
Q is for Queer or Questioning
Queer is a reclaimed term that can be used to describe anyone whose sexual orientation is not exclusively heterosexual. It can include people who have nonconforming identities, or who fall within any other spectrum on the scale. However, this term used to be used as a slur and is still not universally accepted by every LGBTQIA+ community member. In other words, do not identify someone as queer unless they have been specific that that is their preference.
Questioning refers to someone who is questioning their sexuality or gender identity, but hasn't figured out what that means for them yet. The LGBTQIA+ acronym is often a journey, one of introspection and deep personal understanding.
I is for Intersex
This adjective is used to describe a person with one or more characteristics of male or female bodies. This includes reproductive organs, chromosomes, the presence of a beard and so on.
Not all intersex people identify as being a part of the LGBTQIA+ community, as being intersex is a physical occurrence, but the community has welcomed people who are intersex.
A is for Asexual
This term is used to help identify people who do not experience sexual attraction. This leads us to other terms within the + such as demisexual, meaning that a person does not experience sexual attraction until they make a meaningful connection. And aromantic, which is someone who experience little to no romantic attraction or has little to no desire to form romantic relationships. Both terms could fall under the spectrum of asexual, but help specify these identities and expand those feelings more directly.
In addition to the above specified orientations, there is a plus sign at the end of the acronym. This signifies the many terms one could use to identify themselves, or for an identity that does not have specific terminology just yet. This is also not to say that everyone is stuck on one label. A lesbian might also identify as asexual, or even prefer the term “gay woman” instead. There is also the term pansexual, which is like bisexual, but rather than saying one or more gender of attraction, it refers to attraction regardless of gender.
Another term that is becoming more and more relevant is nonbinary. Nonbinary is an adjective that can describe a person whose gender is not male or female. Some transgender people might identify as nonbinary, but not all nonbinary people identify as transgender. They might choose to use they or them as their pronouns. The nonbinary identity can include people being genderfluid or genderqueer, or any other words that a person may feel more comfortable with. None of these terms mean exactly the same thing, but all speak to an experience of gender that isn't female or male.
Then there is the idea behind the fluidity of sexuality. Someone may be comfortable using one specific term for themselves, while others might prefer a more blanket term that does not feel as restricting to them. At the end of the day, it’s all personal! And no one person is the same, including everyone who does not identify as part of the LGBTQIA+ community. We are all different and unique, just as much as we are the same.
Whew! That is a lot of information.
There are always new things to learn and a learning curve of being in a more progressive, though still not entirely equal, world. As long as you are willing to try and put in the effort to learn something new, to try to use respective pronouns or names, and gently correct any slip-ups, it is truly the effort that is appreciated. Never assume and always ask respectfully worded questions for clarification or learning purposes. Most people would be happy to answer if you are happy to listen! Really it all comes back to the first basic principle of respect we are taught: treat others how you would want to be treated.
Check out these references for more information about LGBTQIA+ slang, culture, community and the power of word.
- “The Dictionary of Homophobia” by Louis-Georges Tin
An encyclopedic book that documents the history of homosexuality, and various cultural responses to it, in all regions of the world: a masterful, engaged, and wholly relevant study that traces the political and social emancipation of a culture.
- “The Queens' English” by Chloe O. Davis
This comprehensive guide to modern gay slang, queer theory terms, and playful colloquialisms that define and celebrate LBGTQIA+ culture is both an education and a celebration of queer history, identity, and the limitless imagination of the LGBTQIA+ community.
- “Gaybcs” by Rae Congdon
A cheeky, progressive adult alphabet book that celebrates and illuminates LGBTQIA+ terminology
- “From Gay to Z” by Justin Elizabeth Sayre
A humorous collection of the rich legacy of gay culture, told through the letters of the alphabet
- “The Queer Bible” (essays by multiple authors)
A wonderful collection of essays written by today's queer heroes.
For more information, resources and definitions, here are some additional sources of information: